With so many free methods of communication today, such as Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter and Whatsapp, it’s surprising to see another form of social media rise in popularity. But Discord is the latest free communication platform that sees in excess of 300 million users today. But how did discord rise in popularity, which has seen its valuation soar above the 2 billion dollar mark.
Here’s how it happened: Discord is a communication website which couples most of the features that can be found in other communication applications such as sending messages, voice chat and even pictures, videos and you can also use your photo as discord pfp. It was founded by Jason Citron and was publicly released in May 2015 but Citron’s first venture into business was with Open Feinta social gaming platform for mobile games used on the iPhone and Android platforms that offered things like leaderboards, virtual currencies and achievements all stored on the cloud.
OpenFeint was sold to Japanese mobile gaming company GREE for 104 million dollars in 2011. Citron then used this money to set up the game development studio, Hammer and Chisel in 2012 Hammer and Chisel’s first game was called Fates Forever which was a tablet focused game centred around the multiplayer online battle arena style. Citron set out to make a great complex game that didn’t compromise simply because it was made for a mobile device.
The game however wasn’t very successful, but it did inspire Citron to launch Discord The inspiration came from being unable to easily chat with other players to determine strategies as other VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol were limited, clunky or unsecured. With backing from Benchmark Capital and Tencent along with You Web 9Plus’ incubator, Discord was created and launched. In 2016, the firm then received an additional 20 million dollars in funding for its software, including investment from Warner Media and then in December 2018 the company announced 150 million dollars in funding led by Green Oaks Capital.
This fundraising round valued the firm at 2 billion dollars which according to the website, in other words means we’ll be around for a while. But what is discord? Essentially it’s a website that offers free voice and text chat for gamers. Or that’s how it was originally marketed. By running Discord through server infrastructure, nobody’s IP address can be revealed unlike Skype, adding a secure way of communicating.
Users are then invited to join public or private servers to discuss certain topics most focused around gaming with a semi public forum style of connecting with like-minded people. Similar to Reddit, servers then have moderators to ensure the conversation flows down the right path and bots can be implemented to help with this. It offers features that you might find on Skype, Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp as well as being able to stream video games like on Twitch.
The platform is free to use and ad-free so how does it make money? Discord uses a freemium model where users can paya monthly fee for Discord Nitro where they can access extras such as animated emojis, as well as upload bigger files, stream in 4K using Go Live and boost servers, which improves their functionality. The company also sells their own merchandise to drum up some spare cash similar to many influencers nowadays.
But they also run their own game store which they launched in August 2018, which allows game developers to sell their games to a wider audience with discord taking 10% of all sales. Discord was launched to be a place for gamers to chat easily but recently the company has shifted to become a more universal platform. In March 2020 they changed their motto from ‘Chat for Gamers’ to ‘Chat for communities and friends’ and from June 2020 they announced their intention to become a place for everyone to talk.
As the platform shifts, it looks like it’s moving towards a Reddit style with servers for fantasy football and investing among other things where people can chat anonymously about anything. However, whilst we’ve already touched on the privacy element that Discord offers to users, privacy is not always a good thing because it allows people to create anonymous servers to discuss hate speech or organize rallies.
Far-right groups have used and abused the privacy and anonymity that the platform offers, to plan protests and rallies such as the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville villeon the 12th of August 2017. Also, left-wing media collective, Unicorn Riot, revealed the Discord server where members of the US Armed Forces were seen discussing their tiesto white nationalist groups. Despite its new found growth and its sky-high valuation,Discord still salutes its roots with a nod to the past.
Discord staff members all have the hammer and chisel badge And, since it was launched in 2015,Discord now has 56 million monthly users who send around 960 million messages every day, which will likely continue to grow as the firm becomes less about gaming and more about communication.